I don't exactly remember when or where my love affair with words began. At one time, I thought I wanted to go in to journalism, but while working in high school at the Raleigh News and Observer, I noticed that everyone on the staff with the exception of the Society Editor worked at night and that didn't appeal to me. Of course, I didn't have sense enough to know that a multitude of jobs exist in journalism other than on morning newspapers, but remember this was the late 40's and things have changed a lot in the field of journalism since then.
At any rate, while writing the articles on Mayberry, Andy and Pork Chop Sandwiches, I started thinking about words again particularly how we southerners handle them a little different from the way they are used in the rest of the country. Not only do we use the words differently, we combine them so as to make perfect sense to us but next to impossible for outsiders to understand. I have often wondered if we did this so outsiders wouldn't understand us or is (was) it a means for us to identify outsiders as if we couldn't otherwise make this distinction.
At the very time I was working on the Mayberry etc. articles, someone e-mailed me a list of "things all southerners know." It is outstanding and I want to share it with you. We southerners understand this list and you non-southerners will never understand, no disrespect intended. The author is unknown but one thing I know for sure. He or she is a southerner and I suspect, proud of it. Here goes.
THINGS ALL SOUTHERNERS KNOW
The difference between a hissie fit and a conniption fit.
Pretty much how many fish make up a mess.
That "gimme sugar" don't mean pass the sugar.
When somebody's fixing to do something, it won't be long.
The difference between Yankees and damn Yankees.
How good a cold grape or orange Nehi and cheese crackers are at a country store.
Ain't nobody's biscuits like Grandma's biscuits.
A good dog is worth his weight in gold.
Real gravy don't come from the store.
When by and by is.
How to handle their "pot likker."
The difference between "pert near" and "a right far piece."
The differences between a redneck and a good ole' boy.
At one point, learned what happens when you swallow tobacco juice.
Never to assume the car in front of you with the flashing turn signal is actually going to make a turn.
You may wear long sleeves, but you should always roll 'em up past the elbows.
You should never loan your tools, pick-up or gun to nobody.
A belt serves a greater purpose than holding daddy's pants up.
Rocking chairs and swings are guaranteed stress relievers.
I'm going to be on the lookout for other lists similar to the above and will pass them on. Several years ago, the North Carolina Tourist Agency produced a marvelous little book that was distributed at Rest Stops located near the state line which explained the origins of many southernisms. Unfortunately, I either misplaced my copy or someone relieved me of it and when I checked to get another copy, I learned they no longer produce this explanatory guide. What a shame. Many of the words I heard as a child from my grandmother, and thought they were of her own making turned out to have their origins in Victorian English according to the book. One example I remember that may not have been derived from VE is the term "piney woods." I remember hearing my grandmother refer to the piney woods many times and I recall asking her where they were, but no satisfactory answer was forthcoming. It turns out that a piney woods is any area of land covered with trees where the center of the area is unknown. It was another way of saying "unknown." You notice I didn't use the word "forest" because that would have been pretentious where I come from. Of course, it would have sounded funny if the Federal Government had named the U.S. Forest Service the U.S. "Woods" Service. Sometimes, we give in when it suits our needs. Our use of the word "funny" requires some gettin' used to, I am told. I thought everyone knew that something could be funny without being humorous.